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Things to do in Istanbul

Go skiing…yes really

Approximately 2.5 hours from Istanbul is Uludag National Park, which becomes a busy winter sports resort between mid-January and mid-March. It offers a choice of slopes accessed by 22 lifts, along with around 30 places to stay ranging from upmarket lodges to affordable backpacker hostels. Backpacker Travel ( offers a number of one-day, overnight or longer winter sports trips.

Feel the sand between your toes

Few would wish to risk the murky waters of the Bosphorus around Istanbul, but 30 minutes from the city is the Kilyos beach on the Black Sea. There are even better sandy beaches on Avsa, one of the Marmara Islands, 120km (75 miles) southwest of the city in the Sea of Marmara, accessible by ferry ( from Istanbul.

Take a street art tour

Istanbul is awash with some of the world's most astounding graffiti, but in a city of 14 million people you need to know where to look. That's where this Street Art Tour comes in, as tour curator Erbil Silvasioglu guides you through the best you'll find in five different districts.

Visit the Prince Islands

Around 20km (12.4 miles) off the coast of Istanbul are the Prince Islands, and a ban on cars makes for welcome relief for the ears and lungs. Four of the 15 islands have ferry stops, with the two largest - Heybellada and Büyükada - offering the most for visitors. Our tip for the latter: hire a bike, head to the other side of the island and enjoy the silence.

Visit the Basilica Cistern

Built back in 532, this cistern under was constructed using 336 columns and was originally conceived to service the Great Palace and its surrounding buildings. Now a lovingly restored testament to the Byzantine era, traverse its tunnels and you'll feel water dripping on your head and see schools of fish marauding through its waters.